English Romanticism a Taste

English Romanticism a Taste: William Wordsworth, William Blake, Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley together with John Constable, JHM Turner: these are considered the principle proponents of the English Romantic movement in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries.

The following video is a simple and brief selection of works by Constable and Turner primarily devised for my course on perspective – how these 2 artists chose the perspective techniques they did and how such were employed.

English Romanticism a Taste

The Industrial Revolution: images of dark satanic mills, pollution, dirt, grime, exploitation, vast numbers of people leaving the countryside for opportunities in the towns and cities. Slums, overcrowding, high mortality rates especially amongst children. The growth of corporations and of course industry. The rich and the poor.

The Enlightenment: development of science, downplaying of religion as having all the answers. Improvements in medicine, understanding of biology, chemistry, and physics. An opening of minds and a freedom of thought and academic horizons. Religious constraints reduced. Mysteries removed. Science had the answers, imagination, faith in the unknown – reduced. Black and white.

Was English Romanticism a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and the Enlightenment? Constable’s pastoral scenes: countryside people seemingly happy in the fresh open air. The streams are unpolluted, the fields green and trees alive and thriving. The storm clouds are coming though. Was this Constable’s metaphor for the encroaching Industrial Revolution? His people are small and unidentifiable as individuals. Was this Constable’s uncertainty that in fact the rural poor were happy and content and his desire to remove himself from their close proximity. Recall that this was a time and place of the Swing riots.

John Constable Dedham Vale 1802

Turner’s paintings reflect romantic impressions of the outpouring of the Industrial Revolution. His ‘Rain, Stream and Speed’ seems to embrace the benefits of industry although look closely for the rabbit (nature?) running away and about to be crushed before the steam train. With ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ we of course have the graceful sailing ship being towed away for scrap by the smoky, smelly metal tug. Turner’s earlier works almost plagiarise from many of Claude Lorrain’s mythical classic works, ‘Dido Building Carthage’ in point. A return to an earlier mythical age of mysteries and legends far away from the objective facts, figures and hard science of the Enlightenment and industrial brutality.

JMW Turner Rain, Steam and Speed 1844
JMW Turner Dido Building Carthage 1817

English Romanticism a Taste